BeyondHeadlines Special Correspondent
Haridwar (Uttrakhand): Indian Yoga teacher Baba Ramdev said in a press conference today that he had declared his assets on his website. “In keeping with my commitment to complete transparency, I am declaring my assets on my website,” Ramdev said. Interestingly, the financial details of his empire runs into thousands of crores. The yoga teacher said he had stolen people’s hearts, not money.
Earlier today, administration officials in Haridwar visited Baba Ramdev to request him to end his hunger strike launched five days ago as part of his “satyagraha” against corruption. Local police and administration officials visited him this afternoon to persuade him to end his fast. Doctors who conducted his check-up this morning said they are worried about his health.
“If his condition worsens, he may have to be force fed,” told district magistrate to reporters. He also suggested that the yoga teacher has agreed to sip water with lime and honey.
Yesterday, Sushma Swaraj who met the Baba at his ashram said he has lost close to 7 kgs since his hunger strike began and appears weak. “However, he is mentally and spiritually strong,” she had stressed.
Indeed, the Baba seemed to have lost none of his fighting spirit as he said that his alleged remark on a call to arms had been distorted and misreported.
“The words should be used in the right context…I said I will make a force who will not beat anyone but they will not get beaten either,” the yoga teacher said, adding, “what is the harm or wrong if I speak about shaurya (valour)?”
The Baba’s remark on grooming an army of 11,000 young men and women, delivered last morning, provoked criticism from other social activists and a warning of legal action from the government.
The Baba’s call to arms came after his yoga camp plus sit-in was dismantled by the police, some say with brutal force, on Saturday night. 65,000 supporters were teargassed and lathi-charged. Four people were seriously injured; one is likely to be paralyzed for life. The government action was described by the Opposition as a “murder of democracy.” Activists led by Gandhian Anna Hazare held a fast in Rajghat yesterday to protest against what happened at Baba Ramdev’s camp, and to pressure the government to bend to their version of a new law against corruption.
In April, a hunger fast by Mr Hazare transformed into a nationwide intervention against corruption in the government. A shower of scandals had exposed blatant misuse of public office by a few ministers and MPs. Corporate India and politicians seemed to be exploiting a mutually-beneficial relationship. Mr Hazare, circled by lakhs of protestors, won the day. The government agreed to immediately draft the long-delayed Lokpal Bill against corruption. Mr Hazare and four other activists were allowed to join five ministers in drafting that bill.
His aide Balkrishna said that leading a public life makes it imperative to lead a transparent life. He further said that a lot of questions were being raised on the spiritual guru’s assets. He confirmed the institution is run according to the norms of the govt and accounts are maintained with precision. Declaring the yoga guru’s assets, he said that the the Patanjali Yogpeeth Trust has spent Rs249 crore in charity and helping people during calamities. The total capital of different institutions associated with Baba Ramdev is nearly Rs426 crore. He said that they conducted annual audits and paid income tax.
Mr Ramdev’s camp over the weekend was meant to be a sister concern of Mr Hazare’s movement, which is labeled India Against Corruption. Worried that Baba Ramdev, known for his lakhs of followers, would cause the government the same sort of Public Relations nightmare as Mr Hazare’s earlier fast, the government was over-eager to negotiate with him. Four ministers were sent to the airport to receive him -an honour that many pointed out is not accorded to visiting heads of state. Several rounds of negotiations followed. Then on Saturday evening, the delicate peace was shattered.
The government claims that the yoga teacher reneged on a deal that had been struck the evening before his fast began. In exchange for the government agreeing to some of his suggestions on how to check black money, Baba Ramdev had committed to ending his fast early on Saturday evening. When he refused to publicly end his hunger strike, the government moved in.